Friday, June 12, 2009

The Not Yet Ex's, The Ex's And The Kids, part IV

This series hopes to explore what our husbands and children go through when we decide to come out of the closet. Click here for Part I, Part II and Part III

All of our experiences in coming out have things in common as well as many differences, just as we have a before and after, our children also have a before and after. When we changed our lives, the lives of those closest to us were also changed forever.

As each child is different and in a different place, I think it might be best to listen to the voices of the kids themselves in this:

The first comments are by Abigail Garner, author of: Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is. The following is her answer to "Isn’t it confusing and complicated for a young child to have two moms or two dads?"

Only when people tell them it’s confusing and complicated.

When my nephew was five, he was talking on the phone with my father and said, “Grampa, you weren’t home yesterday when I called so I talked to Grampa.” For my nephew, it is completely normal and acceptable to have two grandpas in one house who love him dearly. It gets complicated when a teacher, a friend, or a friend’s parent says, “That’s impossible. You can’t have two grampas in the same house. Which one is REALLY your grampa?” This situation happens time and time again for very young people who are not confused by the love that comes from their family. Speaking from experience, the younger children are when they learn a family member is LGBT, the more accepting they are.

What I knew as a child and what I still know is that I was always wanted and always loved by the caring adults who raised me. I have never doubted that for a second. To a child, there is NOTHING complicated or confusing about having parents who love them.

The struggles that typically come from having a LGBT parent are not because the parent(s) are LGBT, but because the children hear messages everyday that remind them that plenty of people question the validity of their families. This is understandably wearing and frustrating, but it is not the result of parents being LGBT. It is the result of living in a homophobic society.

Most of the quotes below are from

Juliana, whose father came out in 2005, believes her family lived a lie for decades.

James, my own son, also became angry at the lie because he felt that he and Kevin were not born of love but simply as a cover for my own sexuality. Kevin just hated the divorce.

Ryan Enschede, 34, was an adult when his parents divorced and his father came out as gay. “I think growing up I missed a male heterosexual role model, and I think I missed the role models of parents in a good relationship,” he says. “I think my growing-up experience has contributed to my adult feeling of being an outsider in our American culture.” Still, Enschede enjoys the vibe of being around gay men and maintains optimism about the power of queerspawn to transform the world. “We’re a large enough group to have some clout,” he says. “Our mere existence as a visible active group could force social/political change within the gay world which supports gay families, as well as the Religious Right world which condemns it.”

Cassie - "My name is Cassie, and my mom came out when I was eight. That I knew of, at least...she was out for some time before then. My parents divorced at that time and my mom moved to Vermont with her partner, Bridgette, who is still her partner now. They've been together for almost 12 years now, and they are my real parents more than my step-mom and my dad ever were.

I myself am bisexual, but that has nothing to do with my parents influence. I have a younger brother who was only three when my parents split, and he basically has been completely raised by two women, and he is straight. I also have a younger sister, who is asexual. :P I am active in the gay rights community - I wrote an essay about it on Fictionpress, and I talked to the Vermont senator at the time before civil unions were legal about my family and why I did not think it was fair that they were not able to get rights.

I think we're like any other family - I just happen to have been raised by two women instead of a woman and a man."

Ryan - "As a child of divorce I know how heart-breaking it is for family, friends and the kids. I remember when my biological parents divorced - mom and dad - when I was about 9. My grandmother died and my dog was run over by a truck passing by. Can we say trauma. The divorce seemed to be the one thing that I could fix, there was hope.

What I didn't know was that there was much more going on under the surface. They had fallen out of love. And mom had moved on. Soon after Mom met Sue. Mom and Dad had been together just about 10 years, Mom and Sue have been together 22. Mom followed love not gender. The two need to be separated when we look at gay divorce. The big difference is that kids are protected in a legal marriage. What happens when our parents fall out of love and then the courts fall out of recognition of their relationship."

Chelsia Rice, who grew up in a lesbian-headed family gave the following speech at a marriage equality rally in Portland, Oregon on Valentine's Day 2005:

What wasn’t easy is how society dealt with my family and how same-sex families are still treated today. The opposition says that if same-sex marriages are legally recognized, “Schools will be forced to teach that the homosexual family is normal.” Well, if the schools would have even come close to recognizing my family’s existence in a classroom - it would’ve made my life a lot easier. But, because we had to remain closeted to remain safe, it took me 13-years to meet another kid with lesbian parents. And when she approached me at school and told me she had lesbian mothers too, we celebrated and we instantly became friends. But regardless of knowing someone else, I still had no one to help protect me from societies scorn; I still had to defend myself from a barrage of bullies.

And it wasn’t just my peers – who often made spectacles of me in classes by passing notes and spreading rumors - in grade school, the PTA gathered to warn other parents that my mother might teach them how to be lesbians resulting in a huge loss of childhood friends who were no longer allowed to hang out with me, spend the night at my house, or come to my birthday parties. And when Measure 9 was on the ballot in the early 90s, even some of my high school instructors posted YES on 9 signs in their classrooms and on their desks. I even had one teacher who made us listen to Rush Limbaugh during lab. Not to mention, our house was vandalized several time during that election year.

Did I feel resentment and anger toward my family and society? Absolutely. Would I change a thing? Never.

Resources for coming out to your children and resources FOR your children:

COLAGE on coming out to your children COLAGE is a national movement of children, youth, and adults with one or more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer (LGBTQ) parents. We build community and work toward social justice through youth empowerment, leadership development, education, and advocacy. Lesbian Life, How To Come Out To Your Child

How It Feels to Have a Gay or Lesbian Parent: A Book by Kids for Kids of All Ages

And PFLAG, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays

Would I have come out still, knowing what I know now? About how it might have affected the ex and the kids? Yes, absolutely. I know I could not have staying in the closet any longer, but I think it could have been handled a lot better if I had taken the time to find things out first. Or had even known where to begin to look for answers.

What everything comes down to is: the real damage seems to come from influences outside of our control. The beliefs of others, and their comments we and our children hear from peers, the media and other adults who have negative opinions about LGBT folk hurt us all on so many different levels.

The best we can do is to do the best we can everyday, and try to remember that in the end, love always defeats hate....

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